Finding the right direction in life is an existential problem we all face. A direction in life means setting goals for yourself to be successful. Without goals, there will be no motivation, and with no motivation, you can’t move forward in life.
Need help to get a direction in life? These tips below should give you a head start.
11 Ways to Get a Direction in Life
Whether you’re in your 30s, fresh out of college, or just retired, trying to figure out your new direction in life can be tough. This is also relevant if you are living a life you’re not satisfied with and hope to change your life’s direction.
Here are 11 ways to find a new direction to help you keep going.
1. Draw the Line Between Thinking and Overthinking
According to research, 73% of 25 to 35-year-olds and 52% of people between 45 to 55 years chronically overthink.
While taking time to think about big life decisions is important, overthinking leads to paralysis, deferred decisions, self-doubt, and inaction.
With every obstacle that comes up, ask yourself: “Is this a genuine concern, or am I using this as an excuse not to follow my passion because I feel scared (or insert alternative uncomfortable feeling here)?”
2. Take Action
Finding the right direction in life is not something that happens to you; it’s something you create. This means that at some point, you have to stop thinking about taking action and start acting.
One of the main reasons why people don’t act is fear. They’re scared of messing up, scared of things not working out, and scared of realizing that what they thought was the “right direction” isn’t right for them at all.
Taking action doesn’t mean you’re committed to that path forever. You’re allowed to change your mind. If it doesn’t work out, that’s great! At least now you know that you need to go back and try something else. Taking action, living through disastrous scenarios, and coming out with more wisdom is far better than not taking action at all.
3. Trust in Your Instincts
Our instincts are the primal internal urges and alarms that help keep us alive. Listening to and interpreting these urges is especially critical when a decision affects your safety and well-being.
We’ve all said something similar to, “If I would have just gone with what I thought, this never would have happened.” The truth is nine times out of ten, there are warning signs, red flags, and things that feel “a little off” about a situation that we choose to dismiss. Ignoring these inclinations could be costly and even fatal.
In his book, “The Gift of Fear”, author Gavin de Becker explains how our primal fight or flight instincts work. He explains that what we refer to as “a feeling” is the result of hundreds of quick calculations done subconsciously that register as a physical response.
Sometimes, we may feel suddenly afraid or uneasy. When there is no logical explanation for fear (it’s not tied to a past or current event or an emotional scar), you should trust your gut. I’m talking about the heart-pounding, pit-in-your-stomach type of fear.
Your brain has done the calculations, and something about the situation is wrong. Becker has found that 85% of the time, our calculations are accurate. The other 15% of the time, our calculations are not necessarily wrong, just slightly askew.
4. Notice What Makes You Happy
If you know that your current life direction isn’t meeting your needs and you’re unsure about what it is you need, you should do some self-research.
As you go through your daily life, notice when you feel most alive, enthusiastic, and valuable. Ask yourself what activities present a positive challenge and which ones make time feel like it’s speeding up.
Once you have that list, note the common elements between those activities. These elements are what make you happy.
5. Discover Your Strengths
We all have individual strengths, but sometimes it’s hard to identify them ourselves. Because our strengths come naturally to us, we’re not always aware that not everyone has a particular trait or skill we take for granted.
Taking a strengths test such as the VIA Strengths Test will give you more awareness of where your strengths lie and, perhaps, a few more ideas on how to use them to add value to the world.
6. Focus On Your Values
Just as we all have individual strengths, we have a set of core values that are deeply important to how we live our lives. The more we’re living in alignment with our core values, the happier we will be. If we’re not conscious of these values, we will not make the best decisions regarding our life’s direction.
To identify which values are must-haves in your life, find a list of values and narrow down the top 10 and top three that resonate with you.
Once you’re aware of them, you’ll be better equipped to make important decisions based on these values.
7. Surround Yourself With Supportive People
Finding the right direction in life is a rewarding challenge that can involve a lot of trial and error. To give yourself the best chance of finding your right direction, you need to surround yourself with supportive people.
Focus on what people do rather than what they say. If someone says they have your best interests at heart but constantly tries to force their way of life or opinions on you, that’s not support. Find a group of like-minded people who will respect your autonomy and still be there when you need them.
8. Practice Beginner’s Mind
The concept of “beginner’s mind” has its origin in Zen Buddhism, and it encourages you to adopt a fresh perspective when looking at things. It involves considering a multitude of possibilities.
Try to adopt an attitude of openness and eagerness, and avoid personal bias when considering your choices.
9. Play Devil’s Advocate
For every option, find reasonable, logical, and legitimate reasons why you should choose the other option.
You could do this by simply making a list of pros and cons for each decision. Measure out the pros and cons and see if your reasonable and measured deduction matches your gut feeling. This would help you determine which option is best.
10. Kill Your Procrastination Habit
If you want to reach big goals, you’ll need to kill your procrastination habit. One way to do this is to spend a few minutes each evening writing out your schedule for the next day. When you plan in advance how you’ll spend your time, you’ll wake up in the morning knowing exactly what you’re going to do with your day.
Another great way to kill your procrastination habit is to “eat the frog every morning.” This comes from Mark Twain, who said,
“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.”
Your frog is the task you’ve been procrastinating. It’s the thing you dread or the action you need to take that’s out of your comfort zone.
As you work toward reaching big goals, you’ll need to eat many frogs along the way. Make it a point to eat the frog each morning and you’ll make massive progress toward your big dreams.
11. Develop a Specific Goal-Attainment Strategy
It’s important to set specific goals, so you know what your target is. It’s also incredibly important to develop a strategy to achieve those goals.
For example, if your goal is to run a marathon:
- What action steps do you need to take?
- What time of day will you do your training runs?
- How will you make room in your life to fit in the workouts?
- How will you fuel your body?
- How will you persevere and get through long workouts on days you feel tired or unmotivated?
- What stretches and strengthening exercises will you perform to help prevent injuries?
- What training program will you follow, and who can be your accountability partner as you work toward reaching this big goal?
Recommended actionable tasks to benefit immediately
- Surround Yourself With Supportive People: Avoid bad company and sit with the people who motivate you to improve and pursue your goals.
- Play Devil’s Advocate: Make a pro and con list of everything you want to do so you can better decide where you want to take your life.
- Discover your Strength: Take different strengths tests to give you a deeper awareness of where your strengths lie and, perhaps, a few more ideas on how to use them to add value to the world.
- Kill Your Procrastination Habits: Spend a few minutes each evening writing out your schedule for the next day. When you plan in advance, you’ll wake up in the morning knowing exactly what you will do with your day.
- Trust in Your Instincts: Listening to and interpreting these urges is especially critical when a decision affects your safety and well-being.
Finding the right direction in life is not something you can decide in a day, as it involves a lot of trial and error. Pick a path, learn from your mistakes, and you will eventually reach your destination.